Sunday, July 22, 2012

Is It Re-creation, Or Is It Just Recreation?

(Sixteenth Sunday of the Year (B): This homily was given on July 22, 2012, at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Mark 6: 30-34.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Sixteenth Sunday 2012]

Is it re-creation, or is it just recreation?

That, I think, is a good summertime question to reflect on in mid-July.  Summer, after all, is a time for recreating: a time when many of us go on vacation, and relax and socialize a lot more than we do at most other times of the year.

Now the difference between the words re-creation and recreation is very small: just one little hyphen between the “e” and the “c” of re-creation.

But the two concepts are definitely not the same!

Many people recreate (and not just during the summer months); but far fewer people actually re-create when they recreate! 

Hopefully you can follow that.

I looked up the word “recreation” the other day, and the first definition I came across read as follows: “Activity done for enjoyment when one is not working”—and I suppose we should add, “or when one is not going to school,” for the benefit of the young people here present.

“Re-creation” on the other hand, is defined very differently.  The first definition of re-creation that I came across consisted of three simple words—three simple words that speak volumes: “to create anew.”

To re-create means to create anew.

So what’s the difference between recreation and re-creation?

Well, I suppose you could say that it’s the difference between doing something that’s enjoyable and rewarding and doing something that’s enjoyable and rewarding—and that also renews you spiritually and brings you closer to God.

There’s a spiritual dimension to re-creation that’s not present in mere recreation.

Thus it shouldn’t surprise us that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, was into both: he was a man of both recreation and re-creation.  In this regard, the Bible tells us that he often “got away from it all” (so to speak)—or at least he tried to!  Sometimes he went alone.  For example, in Luke 5: 16 it says that he “often retired to deserted places and prayed.”

At other times, he took his disciples along with him.  We see that in today’s gospel story.  The apostles had just spent some time preaching, and teaching, and anointing the sick, and driving out demons in Jesus’ name—and they were understandably tired.  They needed a mini-vacation to get recharged and reenergized both physically and spiritually.  And Jesus realized that.  So he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.”

Now in this particular instance it didn’t go very well: their mini-vacation ended up being over almost before it began.

Sometimes that happens. 

But I’m sure that that the little time they did have together was put to good use.  In all likelihood, it wasn’t all small talk and social time.  Since Jesus was in charge, I’m sure they prayed together, and I’m sure they spent some time sharing stories about their recent experiences of ministering to people.

They used the little free time they had for both recreation AND re-creation!

I mention this today, because, as I indicated a few moments ago, many people recreate during the summer months every year, but many of those very same people fail to re-create when they recreate.

And that includes a large number of Catholics!  I’m always amazed, for example, at how many Catholics don’t go to Sunday Mass when they’re away on summer vacation.

I find this out when I hear their confessions afterward!

And I’m talking here about Catholics who are in church every other Sunday—and even on holy days!

When I was a lay person (26-plus years ago), and I went away, that was the first thing I checked when I arrived at the hotel.  I said to the person at the front desk, “Where’s the nearest Catholic church?”

And that was before personal computers and smart phones!  Now all I’d have to do is go online and do a quick web search (which, of course, I don’t—because now I can say my own Mass in my hotel room.  It’s one of the perks of being a priest!  Have Mass, will travel!).

My point here is that if we’re into re-creation and not just recreation, we should make Mass our first priority whenever we’re away on vacation!

And we should say grace at our family meals (as we always should!)—with perhaps an extra prayer or two beforehand.  You know one of the benefits some people experience on summer vacation is that they get to do something with the other members of their family that they don’t often do with them at other times of the year: EAT!  As we all know, because of all the activities that people are involved in these days—especially young people—many families rarely sit down to have a meal together!

But they do eat with one another on vacation—because no one has anywhere to go!

Well, let me suggest something to you for your family vacation meals (which is something you can also do during the rest of the year, on those rare occasions when you’re all together!).  And dads, if possible you should orchestrate this as the spiritual heads of your families:

Before you start eating, ask each person at the table to say one intention that they want to pray for.  Just one.  It could be for themselves, or for a friend, or for a situation at work or school—whatever.  (Dads and moms, you should also come up with an intention each.)  Then say one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be for those needs, followed by Grace.

That whole experience will take, at most, 5 minutes, but it will be extremely beneficial.  First of all, it will give your family the opportunity to focus on God, and to engage in some spiritual re-creation in the middle of all your vacation recreation.

Secondly, it will provide you dads—and moms—with some subject matter for your dinner conversation that night with your children.  (“John, you mentioned that your friend’s dad just got diagnosed with cancer.  How’s he doing?  Does the family need any help?”)

And thirdly, engaging in this activity will help you to know at least some of what’s going on in your children’s lives!  Their intentions will reveal some important details of their day-to-day experience that will help you to help them more effectively.

Let me close my homily today by expressing my own personal prayer intention for this Mass as the spiritual father of St. Pius X Parish:

I would like to pray for the 50 teenagers from our community who are attending the Steubenville East High School Youth Conference at U.R.I. this weekend.  This is an annual gathering of about 3,000 teens from all over the northeast.  And what’s nice about our group this year is that it’s made up of young people from all the parishes in the area: we have teenagers from Immaculate, St. Clare’s and St. Mike’s, in addition to those from St. Pius.

These conferences are extremely popular because they work! Because they convert young people very effectively!  The music is awesome; the talks hit them right where they’re at—and they have fun at the same time.  It’s an experience of recreation, and for many—perhaps most—it’s also a lasting experience of re-creation. 

They come back transformed: with a new perspective on God and faith and the Church and the sacraments—and on life in general.

I pray that all of our young people—all 50 of them—will be changed in this way.

And I pray that the change will last!